Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 560
9th Month of Year 604
On the 7th of the 9th month, Year 604, Thundercrash and Monolith flew their flags in the Northbay camp and marched in eight rows from Canpast's main street to the docks. They boarded the transport ships waiting for them, and departed. It took them the entire day to finish boarding, so they set out only after dark. Because of the time it took them to board, the Shiksan informants didn't stay long enough to see that most of them were armed with breech-loading muskets.
They also didn't notice that the unit flying Monolith's banner was actually the four homecoming Shiksan folks. Even though they had informants in the region as well, the sheer distance between the two continents slowed the spread of news to a crawl. It took three months for a single communique to travel one way, and that was under ideal circumstances.
It usually took three days to sail from Northbay to Shiks. The flotilla was immense, however, several hundred ships. In order to keep everyone together, they could only sail during the day, so they had to anchor every night at sundown. As a result, it took the flotilla five more days to reach Shiks than they had initially planned.
As Minslake Island and Jinbak Island had been taken over by the region, their troops would obviously dock near those two islands. Minslake was the larger of the two and less than 15 kilometres away from the Shiksan coast. If the region transported their two corps there, their target would obviously be Port Bengla or Port Alinass.
Those two ports were only a day's voyage from Minslake Island, after all. If Ironclad could conquer the cannon platforms of those two port cities, they would easily be able to transport Thundercrash and Monolith to shore for an attack on the docks and the city stronghold, securing a foothold for a further Aueran assault.
Though, they couldn't afford to ignore Jinbak Island either. It was the closest island to the Shiksan coast. In fact, it was just opposite Port Kangna, being only 5 kilometres away from it. On days with good weather, one could see the opposite shore from higher altitudes easily. However, Port Kangna was Bleyottean territory that was ceded to Shiks. If the region chose to start its offensive there, it would be committing suicide. The officers of the Shiksan military couldn't be happier to see that happen.
That was because Port Kangna, Port Patkara behind it and Manori Plains were all territories Shiks took from Bleyotte. That combined coastal area was only three prefectures large. Only one side of it faced the ocean, with the others surrounded by Bleyottean highlands.
Should the region pick Port Kangna, Shiks would be able to trap Monolith and Thundercrash in the plains by sending troops to guard the entrance to the mountains at Port Patkara. Shiks could even mobilise the Bleyottean mountain corps to launch guerilla strikes on the Aueran troops. Avitelli I had to do something to deserve all the military aid he was receiving, after all.
On the evening of the 8th of the 9th month in the waters of Mambamark, some 300 transport ships anchored down after a day of sailing. The ships weren't arranged in a defensive formation, but rather, a formation ready for docking. The waters in the area were covered with many empty wooden boxes, across which a long, wooden path was built. There were some ten plus shallow-water ships nailed together to serve as floating piers where the transport fleet could anchor.
"Move faster and pay attention!" a bearded first lieutenant yelled as he instructed the soldiers on the transport ships to climb down from the net of the floating piers. They lined up neatly into rows of troops and crossed the wooden bridge to shore under their commanders' orders.
On the deck of Ironclad's flagship, Saint Hughslind, Moriad was sending off Claude and the rest.
"Shiks definitely wouldn't imagine that their backdoor has been opened after Bleyotte joined us. Let's hope you can reach the Shiksan royal capital, Saint Cyprean, without trouble." Moriad seemed a little unwilling to see them go. While he was now an admiral of the region that sailed freely and unabated across the seas, he had lost the pride and glory that came with conquering cities and exterminating nations.
Berklin and Dyavid came to give Moriad a tight hug. Those two were part of the main vanguard in the attack against Saint Cyprean. Claude, on the other hand, would remain at the rear to control the bigger picture and coordinate the three Bleyottean corps to attack.
"Alright, we still need Ironclad's cooperation in this attack. Don't worry, you'll get to contribute too," Claude said as he gave Moriad a pat on the shoulder. "Whether we can lead Shiks by the nose will depend on your performance at the coast to draw their attention away. Don't let them notice any flaws. As long as we can take the capital, they'll be helpless to fight back."
Of all the things Shiks was expecting, the region's forces getting ashore at a cavern near the coast of Mambamark wasn't one of them. After that, they would be routed through the east of Bleyotte into the Shiksan heartland where Saint Cyprean was located.
Currently, seven of the eight Shiksan standing corps had been transferred to the coastal area. Only one corps, Ironguard, was left to defend the capital. The rear of the kingdom was also sparsely armed, with there only being garrison forces stationed. Additionally, Shiks had decided to form eight reserve corps in their eight coastal prefectures while the other prefectures focused on sending war supplies to the capital. Whether they went on full alert and mobilisation would depend on the situation after Thundercrash and Monolith launched their attacks.
The transport ships were already prevented from getting ashore. Even the coastal cavern where Thundercrash disembarked had been sealed off by the allied noble army of Mambamark. Claude had brainstormed for a long time for the final battle against Shiks. Had it not been for Bleyotte secretly switching sides, the region wouldn't have dared to carry out such a daring plan.
The transport ships quickly left the floating piers after they let Thundercrash and the homecoming Shiksan folks disembark. Then, they stood the uniformed straw men on the ships' decks. From afar, it seemed like they were carrying lots of soldiers. The transport ships would still have to be escorted near Shiksan waters by Ironclad before finally stopping at Minslake Island to give the illusion of disembarking troops.
During this campaign, the region mobilised Thundercrash, Typhoon and the eight homecoming Shiksan folks. In total, they had around four corps' of troops. Coupled with the allied noble corps that joined them to take advantage of the situation and the three Bleyottean mountain corps, their total number exceeded that of the eight Shiksan standing corps. With Shiks having transferred much of their troops to the coastal areas, they exposed a huge opening for the region's troops to take advantage of.
During the afternoon of the 11th of the 9th month, Claude reached the large camp set up at the border of Mambamark and Bleyotte. Avitelli I brought his son, Prince Iksdor, to welcome Claude alongside Borkal, Duke Reddragon, Marquis Griffon, and the other nobles. To maintain secrecy, they didn't hold any grand welcome ceremony and entered the tent after a quick chat.
Borkal was the first one to give a briefing on Shiks. When the rest heard that the Shiksan prefectures near Bleyotte were completely undefended, they cracked sly smiles.
"Shiks has 53 prefectures and a royal territory. They can be divided up into the nine eastern prefectures, eight southern prefectures, ten western prefectures, eleven northern prefectures, 15 central prefectures and the royal territory by itself. The way from Bleyotte to the royal capital of Saint Cyprean cuts through the prefectures of Kreisdi and Tolsta in the east, and Weestmon and Romaflin in the central area. Beyond that is the royal family's territory. Thundercrash will take seven days to mount such an attack.
"There are only three prefectures separating the royal territory and the southern coasts, namely, Dademoss, Ridleys and Lonwayork. The Shiksan standing corps are stationed at the coasts right now. For instance, Lonwayork is stationed with Soram Corps, whereas one reserve corps has been formed in Ridleys.
"If we are to use Thundercrash to attack the royal capital, we'll need to keep their movements hidden from Shiks, and that's the hardest part. The moment they realise something is off, they will strengthen the capital's defences. Reinforcements from Lonwayork and Soram can reach the royal capital in three short days. That poses a rather huge challenge to us."
Borkal pointed at several key points on the Shiksan map during his presentation. He didn't agree to Berklin's proposal to use light cavalry for a surprise attack on Saint Cyprean due to the really long distance. No matter how fast a horse rider was, he couldn't outrun a carrier eagle.
It would also be difficult to hide Thundercrash's tracks. The way to the royal capital was rife with towns. Pedestrian and civilian traffic, especially those of merchants, was so high that it wouldn't be possible to mask the presence of near 90 thousand troops. Not to mention, Shiks didn't even have a cavalry unit that huge. Any Shiksan official would suspect them right away. The moment they came forwards to question them, their cover would be blown.
"I received a letter from Majid III that demanded Bleyotte to mobilise two mountain corps to Shiks to fortify the defences of their southern coasts. Perhaps we can do something about this... like sending troops to the royal capital on the pretence of going to secure the southern coasts," Avitelli I said.
Borkal shook his head. "While Majid III wants people to send him reinforcements, they will send someone to monitor your two corps instead of just letting you pass. They'll even start to take control and scheme to take the right to command from you and have your troops die at the frontlines as cannon fodder."
Claude looked at the map and tapped on the area near the royal capital and Dademoss. "If we set up a defence line here in Dademoss to block reinforcements from Soram from Lonwayork, we only need three days to take the royal capital. After that, we'll have enough troops to deal with the seven Shiksan standing corps."
Claude's plan was rather simple. He would have Avitelli I negotiate with Majid III about sending one of their Bleyottean corps to the Shiksan port. That so-called Bleyottean corps would actually be none other two folks than the disguised troops of Thundercrash's two folks. After arriving at Dademoss and manipulating the local officials there to check them out, they would form a defence line there.
Once the first Bleyottean corps was sent out, he would try to station a small unit of men in those towns before having them report on the towns' states through carrier eagles. By the time the other two folks of Thundercrash arrived in the second Bleyottean corps, they would be able to take over the signalling points in those towns immediately without letting them notify the capital. But by the time Thundercrash and Typhoon arrived at Saint Cyprean, there would no longer be a need to pretend.
In the event Soram was sent to reinforce the others, they would almost be wiped out immediately. Claude believed Thundercrash's two folks would be more than enough to fight the Shiksan standing corps. As for the Shiksan corps stationed near the coastal area, they required different times to return to the royal capital. Either they waited for the slower ones to gather together or went to the royal capital first in an act of suicide.
On the 17th of the 9th month, Avitelli I and Majid III's written conversations finally allowed Shiks and Bleyotte to go into a deal. Avitelli I sent a Bleyottean corps complete with carriages and tools. They then travelled to the royal territory within 17 days. After resting for one day and receiving the gifts from Majid III, they would then head to the southern coast to prepare for battle against Shiks.
Avitelli I agreed to let Majid III send officials to join Bleyotte's military council with some degree of influence and power. He also requested Majid III to provide the necessary supplies they needed for a long march, as well as the intelligence updates they would need. Bleyotte left one tent of men in every town they passed to be the messengers between those two corps.
Naturally, the second Bleyottean corps would come half a month after the first one. Majid III was overjoyed to hear that and let his ministers show the letter Avitelli I wrote. He couldn't wait to see the region and Bleyotte duke it out with each other.
On the 19th of the 9th month, the first of Bleyottean troops reached Shiksan soil. They received a mission from the royal court to transport the supply-filled carriages to the royal territory. Bleyotte also sent out a tribe of light cavalrymen to join the journey with the 100 plus carriages.
Claude remained in the main camp between Bleyotte and Shiks. That camp was actually prepared for the second Bleyottean corps that was about to head out. However, they weren't as lucky as the first, who got to travel in horse carriages. The second batch could only walk all the way to the southern coasts. That alone would take them more than 30 days.
At the front of the camp was indeed the second mountain corps of Bleyotte. But much of the troops at the back were troops from Thundercrash 3rd and 4th Folks, as well as the newly formed Typhoon and the allied noble army of the duke and marquis.
Claude finally announced the start of their last meeting before the attack.
"Behind Port Kangna are Port Patakara and Manori Plains. These three areas used to be former prefectures of Bleyotte, which we will have to return after the war alongside the eastern prefectures of Kreisdi, Mejiwana, Bir Forest and Funkjy Mountain. Those seven prefectures are something we can't dip our hands in."
Claude was the one doing the dirty work now. He knew the kind of fellows that made up Duke Reddragon and Marquis Griffon's allied noble army. While they said they were there to help, they came with the intention of robbing the whole place clean. "I'm going to leave the ten western prefectures to you. These prefectures are only sparsely defended by local garrison troops. Your army of 100 thousand should be able to wipe them out rather easily."
The duke and marquis nodded. While the ten western prefectures weren't particularly prosperous, they were still considered to be the more resource-rich lands in Shiks. The Shiksan nobles there should be packing quite an amount of wealth. But more importantly, those ten prefectures had their original two standing corps transferred to the frontlines, making them the ideal fruit to pick.
Bleyotte would be mobilising three full corps. Avitelli I didn't ask for independent action and instead handed his three corps into Claude's command. He also sent his son, Iksdor, to be Claude's personal adjutant and helper. Additionally, Avitelli I himself would be going to Shiks with Claude as he wished he would be able to see its extermination with his own eyes.